China demanded French Genghis Khan exhibition not use his name

French museum accuses China of trying to rewrite history after Beijing demands Genghis Khan exhibition not use the words ‘Genghis Khan’, Mongol or Empire

  • Exhibition at the Chateau des ducs de Bretagne in Nantes suspended for 3 years
  • Historians at the Inner Mongolia Muesum in Hohhot, China, had been assisting
  • But when officials in Beijing caught wind of the project they asked for full control
  • Museum said it will stand by ‘human, scientific and ethical values that we defend’

A French museum has accused China of trying to rewrite history after Beijing demanded that an exhibition about Genghis Khan not refer to the Mongol leader by name.

The exhibition at the Chateau des ducs de Bretagne in the city of Nantes was being planned in collaboration with the Inner Mongolia Muesum in Hohhot, China.

But when authorities in Beijing caught wind of the project they demanded the words ‘Genghis Khan,’ ‘Empire’ and ‘Mongol’ be omitted and later asked for control over exhibition texts, maps, brochures and communication.

The museum said the 13th century ruler’s exhibition has been put on hold for three years because it will not abide a ‘biased rewriting of Mongol culture in favour of a new national narrative.’  

Genghis Khan (c. 1155/1162 – August 18, 1227) founder and Great Khan of the Mongol Empire

In a statement on Monday, the museum’s director Bertrand Guillet said ‘we made the decision to stop this production in the name of the human, scientific and ethical values that we defend.’  

The dispute coincides with a tougher Chinese line against ethnic Mongols, who account for about 6.5 million of China’s 1.4 billion inhabitants and mostly live in the northern province of Inner Mongolia.

The province has seen weeks of protests and school boycotts over a policy requiring schools to teach politics, history, and literature in Mandarin rather than the local language. 

‘The Chinese regime bans historical narratives that don’t match its official narratives. And tries to do the same abroad,’ tweeted Valerie Niquet, an Asia specialist at France’s Foundation for Strategic Research.

Antoine Bondaz, a research fellow at the foundation, also backed the museum’s decision on Twitter, calling the reported Chinese demands ‘crazy’.

‘The Nantes museum and Hohhot museum had good working relations until Beijing changed its policies and tried to impose its narrative abroad,’ he added.

The ‘hardening this summer of the Chinese government’s position towards the Mongol minority’ prompted the halt of the exhibition, the museum said. 

The Chateau des ducs de Bretagne history museum in the city of Nantes, northwestern France

The Chateau des ducs de Bretagne history museum in the city of Nantes, northwestern France

The show, which was to open next week, had already been pushed back to the first half of 2021 because of the coronavirus crisis.

But the museum said it was now ‘forced to delay this exhibition until October 2024’.

This would give it time to build a new exhibition, featuring works from European and American collections.

The Great Khan: The blood of 40 million on his hands, 16 million of his descendants live on today

Genghis Khan was the founder and Great Khan of the Mongol Empire.

In the early 1200s he united the Mongol tribes, creating a military state that invaded its neighbours and expanded.

The Empire soon ruled most of what would become modern Korea, China, Russia, eastern Europe, southeast Asia, Persia and India.

Khan made himself master of half the known world, and inspired mankind with a fear that lasted for generations.

He was a prolific lover, fathering hundreds of children across his territories. Some scientists think he has 16 million male descendants alive today.

By the time he died in August 1227, the Mongol Empire covered a vast part of Central Asia and China.

Originally known as Temüjin of the Borjigin, legend has it Genghis was born holding a clot of blood in his hand.

His father was Khan, or emperor, of a small tribe but was murdered when Temüjin was still young.

The new tribal leader wanted nothing to do with Temujin’s family, so with his mother and five other children, Temüjin was cast out and left to die.

In all, Genghis conquered almost four times the lands of Alexander the Great. He is still revered in Mongolia and in parts of China.

Historians estimate he was responsible for the deaths of nearly 40 million people with his large-scale massacres of civilian populations. 

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